Jed Holloway’s bumpy journey to a Wallabies jersey will finally be completed in Mendoza on Sunday (5.10am AEST).
The 29-year-old’s breakout season for the Waratahs has been rewarded with a start at blindside flanker in the Rugby Championship opener against Michael Cheika’s Pumas.
Holloway’s Test debut would have come in July against England before a calf injury drew a line through his name.
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But as Holloway wryly noted on Friday: “it wouldn’t be a part of my journey if it didn’t have a setback in it.”
His selection is a remarkable tale after being cut by NSW in 2020.
An Australian under-20s representative, Holloway has always had ability and got his Super Rugby start under Cheika back in 2013.
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But it took the pain of being cut by his home state to trigger an attitude adjustment that has now resulted in the ultimate reward.
“It’s pretty surreal to be honest, it’s something I thought would never really come probably a couple of years ago, or even last year, so to get this opportunity is huge,” Holloway said.
“It’s interesting because earlier in my career it (calf injury) probably would have sent me off the rails a bit. But I’ve got a good support network around me now with my family and my wife, and my little girl now, so there are bigger things than just rugby.
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“I had things to take me away from that and remain positive, and knowing that we’ve got the best physio staff here and working towards that goal, which is getting that cap.”
After being cut by the Waratahs, Holloway took up a contract in Japan with a Toyota Verblitz side that included Michael Hooper, Kieran Read and Willie le Roux.
He then got a lifeline back at NSW under Darren Coleman this year as the pair patched up some previous differences.
“I’m just grateful that I got given the opportunity by DC and had a lot of the players’ support,” Holloway said.
“And I knew I needed to come home with the right attitude because, and I’ve talked about it plenty of times before, I didn’t have that before.
“I always believed in my ability but probably the work ethic and the attitude weren’t there, but that was something that time away really showed me and now I sort of get to reap the rewards for all that hard work…
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“When I originally agreed to sign with the Tahs and he got named head coach, he’s spoken about that it was something he needed to re-address. Me and him needed to sit down and have a hard conversation. I basically talked about my growth as a person and he talked about his growth as a coach.”
Making Holloway’s impending debut even more special is that he will get to share the experience with Rebels prop Matt Gibbon.
Until he was 10, Gibbon and brother Alex lived in Alstonville, NSW, with their parents who both have severe mental disabilities.
“I grew up as really close family friends with the Gibbons,” Holloway said.
“Me and Alex played all our country rugby together, played against each other since we were 10, 11-years-old, Matt was a couple of years behind him but I’ve known Matt for the same amount of time.
“I’m so excited to share this opportunity with him and as much as I am stoked for my opportunity I am so stoked for that guy, everything he’s overcome and the stuff they’ve gone through throughout their life, the resilience he’s shown, I’m so proud of him.”
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